Weekly Poem #200

The Talking Door

 

‘Do you need anything?’

Basic, ambiguous, echoing, pleading, and hopeful,

A mantra, repeated countless times through the talking door,

So simple yet asking a hundred thousand questions more.

Can I get you something to eat? Can I bring up some clean sheets?

Can I listen while you talk about how you’ve been feeling today?

Can I reach into the blackness and pull your mind free of it. Can I? Please?

Each conversation, vibrated through a thin layer of lacquered wood,

Each attempt to understand, each desperate grasp at a shred of motivation,

While my insides cramp and twist and my stomach burns volcanic,

Fighting back the desire to kick the door to splinters, rip the curtains down and confiscate the duvet.

To grab you by the arm and pull you out into the morning sunlight. To save you.

But you can’t bully someone into being happy, you can slap a delighted smile across a wounded face,

You can’t take up arms and fight this battle for them, because it’s not a battle, battles end.

Have you ever loved someone who didn’t love themselves? Cared so deeply, while they thought themselves worthless?

Have you ever heard the person who brought you into the world talk about wanting to leave it?

That was my talking door, my daily dialogue with the dark spectre who stalked our home,

Belching clouds of words which scratched their way through my ears and clawed at my mind,

Reminding me that I’m trying to help someone through something I can never really understand.

Standing by that door, listening to that distant, weakened voice, barely audible from the other side,

Telling me that everything is fine, telling me that she doesn’t need anything. Lying to me, day to day.

Every cliche and platitude ever conceived blasts through your mind like you’re cracking a password

A gateway back to some measure of normality you thought you knew before, but was never really there,

Because you were growing up, and she was tangling with monsters, only now they’re stronger.

Even when you feel like you’re doing nothing though, you can’t stop, you can’t ever stop,

Even when every word of comfort you say feels like it’s shattering against a barricade,

You keep on talking, you never stop talking, scratching away like Dufresne with his rock hammer.

Most days it will feel like nothing will ever change, except that they will continue to slip away,

But you can’t ever stop, because even if it takes a million words for one to break through

And remind them that you love them, and you’ll always, always be there for them,

You keep on talking, you reach that million mark, and then you keep going.

My talking door is opening, inch by inch, and I can see light on the other side,

So I take a breath, I stretch myself, I hold my stance, and I ask again:

Do you need anything?

Weekly Poem #198

Disposable

 

Somewhere in a storage closet, in a corner swept smooth with passing shadows,

Underneath a few ripped coats and ragged rucksacks, there’s a plastic box,

A box filled with disposable cameras, stacked five-high and further across.

Accumulating for decades, a slow, monotonous Tetris game, no kill screen.

Films nestled deep in the carapaces, never developed, always dormant,

Brimming with memories from the world over, spirits, sunsets and ghosts.

The moon hanging gigantic over a Scottish loch, a clear sky across a mountain range,

A blurry establishing shot of a party at a flat in Lambeth, wreathed in smoke,

A family walk through a busy market in Istanbul, a family dog dashing through a field.

A candid shot of a grandfather, unready to pose enough to mask a solemn face,

Or a tender moment between lovers, untarnished by the need to face a grin forwards.

It’s all there, an emotional archive, an amalgam of memories since split and scattered,

Entombed in a translucent sarcophagus, but still stubbornly clinging to life, still with us.

Never pasted across a web page to farm for approval or sink into obscurity,

Never poured over by a sleep deprived mind mining memories and wondering when they’ll be that happy again,

Never tagged, tethered and tarnished by the need to prove something to the silent crowd.

Trees fall soundlessly in the woods, and unseen photographs steal beautiful secrets away,

They sit curled like woodlice in their cases, and spark in the minds of their long-gone subjects.

There’s magic woven into that film, there’s a world remembered, but unknown.

The room darkens, the sky swings over, and the box stays shut. In the darkness, the box stays shut.

Weekly Poem #174

Anti-Matter

 

Our negative charge is of our own making,

Cloistered in dusted shells deep inside,

Waiting for the brain to rattle them loose

And send them shattering against the skull.

A day spent pondering on your worth,

An innocent word from a friend, twisted, corrupted,

Or a short, excruciating stretch of radio silence.

It’s in all of us, dying, dormant or dominant,

That feeling that you don’t really matter,

Or worse, that you don’t deserve to matter;

That your friends would drop you if you struggled,

Your loved ones are ever scanning for the exit,

And your ambitions will crumble in your grasp.

It paints a dark shade across your sky,

It taints the world you create each day on waking,

And it manifests monstrously in dreams.

It can’t be silenced with any kind of logic,

It spreads out into taunting, taxing hypotheses,

Tickling mercilessly between your ribs

And telling you that you deserve to be alone.

A world, visible through reality’s translucent film,

Seeming like the slightest rip will set it loose,

And in one moment all your joys will morph,

Becoming torments, becoming your undoing.

Fighting it is wearisome, it drains and syphons you,

Makes you want to crawl between the sheets

And simply cease, to be spared this looming pain,

But those around you all face their own struggles,

They fight their own battles every day, as you do,

Some are winning, others are losing, but they fight on,

And they love you, oh how they love you.

For however much you might try to think you matter to people,

You matter so much more, and you’ll never truly know,

That spark of affection you use to keep going,

The one they gave you, well you gave it to them.

You might not have noticed, or intended to,

But you’re someone else’s reason to get up in the morning,

They might have even told you that, and you blocked it out,

Only to twist and shake when they chided you,

Ran out of patience with you, or didn’t have time for you.

Love isn’t about constant affirmation, or reassurance.

Someone could tell you they loved you 10,000 times,

And it wouldn’t be any more true on the last than the first,

So you can surrender to anti-matter, sit in aguish

And convince yourself that it’s all just an act,

Or you can accept that you are surrounded by love,

A heavy, tangible love beyond your comprehension,

And know that you’ll never really understand it,

And realise just how beautiful that notion is.

Weekly Poem #94

Fulcrum Fifteen

 

This poem is not for you.

 

I was all of ten

When the fireworks failed

Over the Thames.

Flanked by hope and heart

Heading to a centennial of new starts.

One decade decayed,

Another divided and here we are.

Aching spine, damaged desk and doubled-doubt.

A five word introduction to stasis,

Seven months on it still stings

Like citric acid on a deep, lasting paper cut.

All of 23 and suddenly a family stone,

My father reeling from a stroke,

My mother battling through suicidal depression

And me, right in the middle of it all.

Picking up the scattered shards

Of a secure life, a life that made sense.

Now I’m stood on the precipice of the one-five.

Nine months away from a quarter-century

With a crippling, blackened fog in my eyes.

Shouting statements of new beginnings

But failing to hear them resonate or reverberate.

Some demonic innervision of the current routine

Rewinding and repeating until I’m sucked dry,

A pile of ash sitting brittle for want of kindling

Until a sighing, loveless breeze ushers it offstage.

It’s up to me to resist the dejection, to deflect it.

It’s up to me to take my life back, to reclaim it.

Not so long ago I had no path, no heading

And my ambitions of writing seemed so distant

But now I have hundreds of articles behind me,

A prominence, a recognition and a way forward.

I have to use it, I’ve been churning up a current

Like a breaching leviathan and now I have to swim.

Every debilitating dog day, every lost day

Spent surrendering to aggressive boredom

Wondering when it will end but never standing up to it

Will be rectified, I’m going to change everything.

It might sound cliched to affix new beginnings to a new year

But I need them now more than I ever have.

I’m done hibernating, I’m done with dissatisfaction and envy.

I’m done with hiding from progress and cursing chaos.

This is the year that I siphon and sap every ounce of strength from,

The one that I hurl against barriers and breach them.

No more fucking around, no more complaining, no more hypothesis.

Just hyperbole, cutting through the thicket and setting it alight

Like those fireworks were meant to set the Thames ablaze.

I will succeed where they failed, I will capitalize, rise and supersize.

My family needs me and I need me, more than ever before.

I won’t disappoint them, I won’t disappoint myself.

 

This poem is for me.

Life Update – The Trilogy

It’s certainly felt more recently like I have been giving this blog quite the personal touch that I used to. The bulk of my posting over the past several weeks has been poetry. This is due in some part to the fact that everything else I write ends up on Cultured Vultures, but it’s also because an awful lot has happened in the past few months. With that in mind, I’m going to separate this update into 3 parts, the first will cover all the social rigamarole that I had up until recently been dealing with, the second will be about more current, pertinent issues and the third will be about the direction everything’s headed in. If it seems like I’m being deliberately vague it’s because I’ll just end up trailing off with no real structure if I start talking about anything specific now, this is just an intro. It shouldn’t come as any surprise that a lot of personal information, some of it fairly heavy will appear in this post, so fair warning on that.

Part 1: Social confounditude and the art of moving forward without growing up

Last time I posted any kind of life update it was the beginning of a new year and I largely using it to motivate myself into getting my shit together. I succeeded in so doing but it ended up feeling like a bit of a hollow victory because after ultimately finding a new job and moving to Birmingham, I felt distinctly socially constrained. The primary cause of this ill-feeling was my ex-girlfriend, Tara. That’s not to say she was willfully making me feel uncomfortable or unhappy, but the difficulty I had around her was the primary issue. We broke up in January in rather blurry and perplexing fashion and I didn’t see much of her after that until I reached Birmingham in early March. Up until then I’d been pretty much fine, the relationship had ended more abruptly than I’d have liked and I was perturbed that things hadn’t gone according to plan (one of life’s great ironies) but I hadn’t been overly miserable or lonely in the aftermath. As a matter of fact I was actually happy. Once I started spending time with her again though, issues began to crop up. At first she seemed overly eager to spend time with me, then I became unsettled by how intent she was on emphasizing how well she was doing, later still she started getting with other people in front of me and the like, whether or not it was intentional it wasn’t something I enjoyed seeing.

I couldn’t get my head around it, the breakup had made complete sense, in all honesty I hadn’t had that much faith in the relationship from the outset, we’d hooked up at a one-day music festival and beyond that all we ever did more or less was go to gigs and house parties, more often than not getting wasted in the process. It was nice socially but it had no long term traction and I never really saw a future in it. The final weeks of the relationship were torturous, it had become clear that things were either going to get more serious and that obviously freaked Tara out because she started behaving very abrasively, making snide, insulting remarks and poking holes in my self-esteem at every juncture. Eventually a very unpleasant phone call lead to what I interpreted as the end, but I found out about a week later when we went to dinner to talk things out that she’d thought we were still together. Of course that didn’t become clear until we’d already been talking for more than an hour. I don’t know if you’ve ever broken up with someone through them realising that you’d already abandoned the relationship, having thought you were trying to salvage it, but it ain’t pretty and I was intensely relieved to escape from that massacre with my composure intact.

With that in mind I should have been able to move on cleanly but I let my ego get the better of me, I felt like I was losing, we’d broken up sooner than I wanted and seeing her act the way she was acting felt like there was still some unfinished business, some animosity or uncertainty. I let it get the better of me. Don’t get me wrong there was definitely something going on, she was acting strangely and being around her threw me off balance, but I was letting that unbalancing haunt me, I was exaggerating it. What I see now is that you can convince yourself that your overreacting or over-thinking as much as you like but that won’t stop it from happening, you have to just bear with it and eventually it’ll fade. At the end of the day we just weren’t compatible, we needed different things, she’s 10 years my senior, trying to reach a position of stability and fulfillment and I’m just trying to build up life-experience and really grow into myself. Neither of us were benefiting from spending time together after the breakup and trying to force a friendship wasn’t helping, clearly neither one of us has figured out what we meant to the other yet, so I’m keeping my distance now and will probably continue to do so for some time, it’s too murky right now and I can’t switch that off. Maturity only really holds water as a concept when it happens by itself, no amount of contemplation can accelerate it, I realise that now.

Part 2: Picking up and Moving Forward After a Huge Change

All that stuff’s pretty trivial by comparison to the bigger picture stuff though, the issues with Tara preyed on my mind a lot and I did what I had to do to alleviate that, but like the sunscreen song says, the big issues are apt never to cross your worried mind, they blindside you at 4pm on some idle Tuesday. In this case it was actually about 1pm, but we’ll get to that in a second. As much as social exaggerations had dampened my arrival in Birmingham, things were going according to plan, I had a job at a DIY store that would support me until I got something better, I was making contacts to further my writing and I’d found a decent place to live. Everything leading up to my Masters in September seemed stable. Life doesn’t care a fig for stability. I was at work, busying my self with shelf stacking or some such when my manager came over and told me to drop everything immediately, at first I thought I was in trouble, right up until he told me that my father had suffered a stroke. That was 2 months ago and in the time that’s elapsed since then I’ve moved back home, resigned from my job and undertaken the role of looking after my house and family. My brother’s time is almost entirely occupied with college and my mother can’t drive owing to one too many severe diabetic incidents, so all the driving, shopping and pet care now falls to me. Since the stroke my Dad has gradually been regaining movement on the right side of his body, he’s made amazing progress, from barely being able to get out of bed or make himself understood he can now speak clearly, walk with only the most basic assistance and move the fingers on his right hand to some extent. He’s still in hospital and will be for some time, but that just means he’ll have more regular access to the intense physiotherapy that he needs at this critical stage.

I’ve learnt a great deal about strokes and the recovery process since all this started, it’s a very slow, laborious process which motivation and positivity are of paramount importance to. It would be very easy for someone in Dad’s position to just throw in the towel and fold beneath the crushing pressure of the misfortune that’s befallen him but he hasn’t allowed it do to that, he’s shown extraordinary resilience and I am so proud of him for that. He can be stubborn and complacent at times but he is always willing to work as hard as he possibly can to get better. From my point of view, it was initially difficult to accept that I would have to return home so soon after leaving but in the grand scheme of things it’s a minor setback, the beauty of writing as a skillset is that you can do it anywhere and building experience is a constant thing, you never stop writing. When something huge like this hits you, you can either let it overcome you or you can accept it and carry on, which is what we’ve all had to do. My Mum in particular has dealt extremely well with it, before this she was so overcome with depression that she barely got out of bed, now she’s up and active all-day every day, driven by an incredible motivation to help her husband get his life back, it sounds a strange thing to say that this has helped her in some ways but I’d say it has. We’ve all come out of the other side much stronger. It’s a strange feeling at age 23 to have the rest of your family genuinely depending on you, but when you really need to be strong it isn’t a choice, you just fucking get on with it.

Part 3: Motivation and Understanding

An interesting part of all this is that it’s put me in a position where I’ve really started reflecting on what I want out of life and why. I’ve been doing so much journalistic writing recently and I’ve really moved towards pinning down what it is about writing that I love. The journalistic stuff is great and I really enjoy it but true creativity, true expression and manifestation of imagination, that’s what I’m really working towards. The work I’ve done with Cultured Vultures has been really gratifying, it’s allowed me to really broadcast my work in ways that I never have before and it’s been great seeing the site grow, but most of my work for it has been appreciation of music, games and films and that’s only a sidebar for me. What I take real gratification from is when a poem I’ve written, a short story or whatever else is openly complimented by someone I don’t know, the times when a stranger has really expressed their appreciation for something that I’ve created out of thin air with no bias or agenda. It means that I’ve sent out a signal from the confines of my imagination, the thing that defines my comprehension of the world and it’s tapped into somebody else’s, even for a second. That’s just mind blowing, that’s the dream. You could write or paint or make music or dance for years and years and if just one person sees or hears that thing that you’ve brought into the world and has an emotional response to it, that’s so important, that’s indisputable evidence that you’ve made the world richer. I think that’s why I have such admiration for Ray Harryhausen, he could actually bring his imagination to life before our very eyes, I may not have the aptitude for modelling or animating that he did but if I can do that with my writing, I’ll feel fulfilled.

There’s more though, something else that recent experience has taught me is that if you give people the right opportunity, they’ll express themselves in ways that perhaps even they didn’t think themselves capable of, they’ll grow. I genuinely think that people are more intelligent than the society that we live in, which still tries to tell some people that they’re worthless, inadequate. Nobody, repeat, nobody is worthless or inadequate. Beyond my own creativity I’ve decided that I really want to help other people tap into theirs, perhaps more than they thought they could. Recently I’ve become extremely passionate about prison reform, both in America and here, since we’re headed down the same awful path more and more of late. If there’s one group of people who are mistreated by the outdated model of society that we live in, it’s prisoners. That’s not to suggest that they haven’t done anything wrong, most of them have, but that doesn’t invalidate them, they still have something to give, it’s just that most people would rather not regard them as a part of this world. I find that idea distasteful and wrong. That’s why I’m looking into doing outreach work in prisons when I have the time to commit to it and ultimately I aim to set up a program that enables inmates to learn and spend time doing creative writing, so long as they’re willing. It might seem like a strange goal but I cannot abide the idea that there are people in the world that society wants us to give up on, to forget. Everyone on this planet is walking around harboring the potential for things that extend beyond themselves and everyone deserves the chance to express that potential, we’re all in this together.

That’s all I got, I’ll expand on some of the last points in a longer article at some stage, but for now I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this, stay excellent 🙂

Weekly Poem #58

Bottom of the Glass

 

It’s harder to walk when your stomach is on fire,

Trying to bleed through a mesh of copper wires.

Aiming for a target that is neither north, nor south

And crying through something deeper than eyes or mouth.

Claiming not to believe in fate, yet fearful of its voice.

Hoping every minute to find the flag that you need to hoist.

It’s harder to stand when your feet are cut from paper,

When you thought you had a second heart, but you grew to hate her.

You climbed the first few steps and then a cruel wind knocked you to the base.

You feel spurned, abused and wounded when you look at your own face.

You’ve done something that’s selfless, you given up so much

But no measure of gratitude can make your hand warm to the touch.

It’s harder to breathe when your throat is solid carbon

But you can’t accept your sacrifice until your fingers harden.

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